From a reader…
Earlier this week, my wife attended what she thought would be a Funeral Mass for a Catholic relative, but was dismayed to find that it was merely a Liturgy of the Word service, followed by schmaltzy songs and a eulogy by a family member (who seemed to have some old scores to settle), all taking place inside the church.
I’d never heard of this kind of service before, but I subsequently
learned that it is called a “Funeral Liturgy Outside Mass”. It seems that this is primarily meant for occasions when it isn’t possible to celebrate Mass, but in this case the priest was present throughout and took part in the lunch afterwards.
My question is this: given that the CCC 1689 emphasizes the centrality of the Eucharist in Catholic funerals for the good of the soul of the departed and the community of the faithful, why is this type of liturgy allowed apart from cases of grave necessity? It disturbs me greatly that this appears to be a common practice, and that many of the faithful go to their rest without the benefit of a Mass.
GUEST PRIEST RESPONSE: Fr. Tim Ferguson
The law is clear in stating that a funeral Mass is the preferred prayer to offer on behalf of the deceased as well as for the spiritual edification and benefit of the mourners. The rite outside of Mass may be used when a funeral Mass is not permitted (i.e., on Holy Days of Obligation, during the Triduum, and on Sundays of Lent, Advent, and Easter), when a priest is not available, or when “for pastoral reasons the pastor and the family judge that the funeral liturgy outside Mass is a more suitable form of celebration.” (c.f. the Order of Christian Funerals, n. 178).
It’s hard to imagine those circumstances when, outside of those times listed, a priest who is available to offer a funeral Mass would opt not to do so. Perhaps if the deceased were a convert and there was some hostility among some family members to the deceased’s Catholic faith (but that would seem to me to be the perfect time to use the funeral liturgy as a means of evangelization!). Perhaps if the priest already had obligations to offer two Masses that day (presuming it was a ferial day) and could not licitly offer a third. Perhaps if the cineplex in town was offering a one-time only showing of Las Noches del Hombre Lobo with Paul Naschy as Count Waldemar Daninsky at 3:00 p.m., and in order to make it to the theatre on time to get a decent box of Raisinets and an RC Cola, a shorter liturgy would be preferable…
Even with the Funeral Liturgy Outside of Mass, there is no rubrical indication permitting eulogies, which are truly foreign to our funeral tradition, though sadly, in some places, they have become commonplace.
Certainly, having a Mass offered for the repose of one’s soul is a most salubrious thing. I would encourage our interlocutor, thus disturbed by the deceased person having been deprived of this benefit, to seek out a good and faithful priest and offer a stipend for a Mass to be said for the repose of his soul.